SV: Non-Indic sustrate vocabulary

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at
Thu Mar 8 15:49:15 UTC 2001

JoatSimeon at [SMTP:JoatSimeon at] skrev 3. mars 2001 07:25:

> The basic problem is that we just don't have enough writing in the Indus
> Valley script to be able to being to understand it.  Probably because
> most of their writing was on some perishable material -- ink on palm leaves,
> at a guess.  Until and unless someone comes up with a store of fortuitously
> preserved material, equivalent to the Vindolandia wooden tablets, it's
> all wheel-spinning.

> It's a pity they didn't use clay, like the Mesopotamians.

How very true!

Those who are interested, might want to have a look at:

Gregory L. Possehl (1996). Indus Age. The Writing System. University of
Pennsylvania Press.

Asko Parpola (1994). Deciphering the Indus script. Cambridge University

Possehl discusses a large number of attempts to solve the puzzle. Parpola's
book represents such an attempt.

There is at present no universally acknowledged solution to the problem,
and it may be argued that the problem is unsolvable and will remain so,
just as JoatSimeon suggests.

The problem of the Indus script is, however, closely connected to
ideological struggles related to Indian nationalism ("Hindutva"), and
several attempts have been made to interpret the Indus script language as
Sanskrit. A recent attempt was deconstructed by Prof. Witzel of Harvard
University and his collaborator Steve Farmer in the Indian journal
Frontline a few months ago. Still, the assertion that the language of the
Indus (Harappan) culture was Sanskrit, is frequently met in the Indian
press and also abroad. Such assertions should be regarded with scepticism.

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19
Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45
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Email: lmfosse at

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